Like any normal modern relationship, I was introduced to the boys of Death Valley Yacht Club with the help of the internet. Bassist Vik Makker reached out and invited me to one of the most unique indie gigs I've been to so far: The Death Valley Yacht Cruise.
Yes, that's right. I said "Yacht Cruise". Why crowd into a tiny dark basement venue somewhere in Parkdale when you can hop aboard and sail around the Toronto Islands with a couple great local dance bands?
The Death Valley Yacht Cruise had everything you look for in a gig: great music, a vibrant dance floor, and a fun crowd to hangout with. Plus, you really can't ask for more when you add in the open water, some fresh air, and a breathtaking view of the skyline.
A few weeks after the show, our summer schedules finally lined up and I was able to catch up with the band for a little look behind the scenes.
Long before they became Death Valley Yacht Club, drummer Dan Slater and guitarist Kevin Mac kept being told they should get together and start a band.
There's an expression in show-biz that says: "The best way to write a show is to book a venue." The idea is that if you've got a performance date ahead of you, you'll be forced to sit yourself down and write that play/song/puppet-show etc. So that's exactly what these guys did.
With just three weeks before their first gig at the Opera House, Dan and Kevin decided it was finally time to start that band. With the help of Craigslist and a killer Red Hot Chilli Peppers cover, Dan and Kevin found the perfect fit with bassist Vik Makker. And, according to Dan, when the guys realized they needed a fourth band member, Vik's friend Chris Pendergast "just showed up one day [...] and jumped in with a killer solo. We asked him to be in the band on the spot."
After this serendipitous beginning Death Valley Yacht Club continued to grow and find their sound organically. "As we added members, we added influences," says Kevin. "Four people brought a lot of flavours for us to sift through. We try everything and take the pieces we think work best."
"Our sound comes from the combination of our influences," Dan agrees. "Vik brings the funk. Chris has his guitar rock solos. Kev [brings] 80s influenced vocal melodies, and I make sure it all stays in time."
Most importantly, "we want to make people dance," adds Vik. "We write grooves that people can move to."
So how do these four guys take all their diverse tastes and experiences and translate them into a song that literally rocks the boat?
"Write what you love," says Dan. "[And] edit."
Chris elaborates, "The most important thing to think about at first is how inspired it feels. But when polishing one off, it's all about feeling like it's one coherent, catchy, tasteful composition."
"As musicians," Vik adds, " we work for the songs, the songs don't work for us. Always ask yourself: 'Does my part make the song better?'"
Whether they're writing songs or putting together their next show, these are four guys who love thinking outside the box, and are always looking to do something that's not being done by other acts.
"With a name like Death Valley Yacht Club, the Death Valley Yacht Cruise was a natural progression." says Dan. "We always want to push ourselves to find different and interesting ways to get music out to people. Don't be surprised if you see us playing on the upper deck of a double-decker bus next. The Toronto [music] scene is booming right now. Why can't we be Nashville North?"
For your chance to catch Death Valley Yacht Club live at their next unique venue, check out their website: www.thedvyc.com